The Definitions of Dividends and Interest in the OECD Model: Something Lost in Translation?

This article analyses the meaning of the definitions of dividend and interest in the OECD Model by reference to their historical evolution. In the dividend definition the origin of “other corporate rights” is traced to a 1958 OEEC Working Party minute in which the same French expression used in six treaties is translated into English in six different ways, one of which was “other similar corporate profit-sharing rights”. Hence the reference in the title to something lost in translation. Income can fall within both definitions (dividend and interest) by being taxed as a dividend and falling within the listed items of interest. The Commentary attempts to resolve the overlap in thin capitalization situations by unsatisfactory amendments made in 1992 based on whether the lender effectively shares the risks run by the company: the overlap needs to be solved by an amendment to the Model.